NBA: Highest Paid Players, by season
NBA playerSalary,
in million USD
1984-1985 Magic Johnson2.5
1985-1986 Magic Johnson2.5
1986-1987 Magic Johnson2.5
1987-1988 Patrick Ewing2.8
1988-1989 Patrick Ewing3.3
1989-1990 Patrick Ewing3.8
1990-1991 Patrick Ewing4.3
1991-1992 Larry Bird7.1
1992-1993 David Robinson5.7
1993-1994 David Robinson5.7
1994-1995 Magic Johnson14.7
1995-1996 Patrick Ewing18.7
1996-1997 Michael Jordan30.1
1997-1998 Michael Jordan33.1
1998-1999 Patrick Ewing18.5
1999-2000 Shaquille O'Neal17.1
2000-2001 Kevin Garnett19.6
2001-2002 Kevin Garnett22.4
2002-2003 Kevin Garnett25.2
2003-2004 Kevin Garnett28.0
2004-2005 Shaquille O'Neal27.7
2005-2006 Shaquille O'Neal20.0
2006-2007 Kevin Garnett21.0
2007-2008 Kevin Garnett23.8
2008-2009 Kevin Garnett24.8
2009-2010 Tracy McGrady23.2
2010-2011 Kobe Bryant24.8
2011-2012 Kobe Bryant25.2
2012-2013 Kobe Bryant27.8
2013-2014 Kobe Bryant30.5
2014-2015 Kobe Bryant23.5
2015-2016 Kobe Bryant25.0
2016-2017 LeBron James31.0
2017-2018 Stephen Curry34.7
2018-2019 Stephen Curry37.5
2019-2020 Stephen Curry40.2
2020-2021 Stephen Curry43.0
2021-2022 Stephen Curry45.8
2022-2023 Stephen Curry48.1
2023-2024 Stephen Curry51.9
2024-2025 Stephen Curry55.8
2025-2026 Stephen Curry59.6
2026-2027 Damian Lillard63.2
  • Region: United States
  • Time period: 1984 to 2023
  • Published: Mar 2023

Data Analysis and Insights

Updated: Mar 27, 2024 | Published by: Statistico

Stephen Curry's unprecedented salary growth

Stephen Curry experienced a significant salary increase from 2017-2018 to 2024-2025, with his annual salary growing from $34.7 million to $55.8 million. This trend represents an annual growth rate that outpaces any other player in the dataset over a similar timeframe.

Magic Johnson's early dominance in salaries

Magic Johnson was the highest-paid NBA player from 1984-1985 to 1986-1987, consistently earning $2.5 million. His return to the top of the salary chart in 1994-1995 with $14.7 million marks a significant salary leap within a decade.

Michael Jordan's peak salary records

Michael Jordan set the record for the highest NBA salary in the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 seasons, with salaries of $30.1 million and $33.1 million respectively. These figures remained unmatched for nearly two decades.

Kevin Garnett's salary milestones

Kevin Garnett was the highest earner for five consecutive seasons from 2000-2001 through 2003-2004, with his salary peaking at $28.0 million. His dominance in the salary charts underscores the significant investment teams were willing to make in top talent during the early 2000s.

Kobe Bryant's consistent top earnings

Kobe Bryant dominated the salary rankings from 2010-2011 to 2015-2016, with his salary reaching a high of $30.5 million in 2013-2014. Bryant's consistent presence at the top of the salary chart highlights his enduring value to the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA.

Damian Lillard's future salary benchmark

Damian Lillard is set to earn $63.2 million in the 2026-2027 season, marking a new benchmark for NBA salaries. Lillard's contract represents a significant milestone in player compensation, reflecting the evolving financial dynamics of the league.

Shifts in the highest-paid player

The NBA saw a shift in the identity of its highest-paid player 15 times from 1984-1985 to 2026-2027. This variation highlights the changing market values of players and the competitive nature of salary negotiations.

Patrick Ewing and Kevin Garnett's salary trajectories

Patrick Ewing and Kevin Garnett both saw significant salary increases over their tenure as the highest-paid players. Ewing's salary rose from $2.8 million in 1987-1988 to $18.7 million in 1995-1996, while Garnett's salary increased from $19.6 million in 2000-2001 to $28.0 million in 2003-2004. These increases reflect the escalating value placed on elite NBA talent over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the notable change in Stephen Curry's salary from 2017-2018 to 2024-2025?

Stephen Curry's salary grew from $34.7 million in 2017-2018 to $55.8 million in 2024-2025.

What salary records did Michael Jordan set in the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 seasons?

Michael Jordan set the record for the highest NBA salary in the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 seasons, with salaries of $30.1 million and $33.1 million respectively.

What is the projected salary of Damian Lillard in the 2026-2027 season?

Damian Lillard is set to earn a record $63.2 million in the 2026-2027 season.

Terms and Definitions

Short for National Basketball Association, the NBA is a professional basketball league in North America, comprising 30 teams. It is one of the major professional sports leagues and recognized by the International Basketball Federation as the governing body of professional basketball worldwide.

The compensation that a player receives for his participation in the team, usually in the form of an annual pay. The player's salary is part of team’s total wage bill which includes base salary, bonuses, and certain allowances.

A designation a team may apply to a player scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. The tag binds the player to the team for one year if certain conditions are met. It's often used by teams to extend a contract for a player they consider key to their performance.

A limit imposed on the total amount that an NBA team can pay in player salaries. The cap is designed to keep teams competitive and prevent wealthier teams from hoarding all the top players.

A penalty assessed to an NBA team that exceeds the salary cap. The tax is meant to dissuade teams from overspending and to level the playing field for smaller-market teams.

The highest amount of money that a team can offer a player. The maximum salary a player can earn is based on the player's years of experience and the total of the salary cap.

A player who is not under contract with any team and is free to sign with any team that offers a contract. There are several types of free agents, including unrestricted and restricted.

Occurs when a team and player mutually decide to part ways. The team agrees to pay the player a portion of their remaining contract, allowing the player to sign with another team as a free agent.

A standard contract that first-year players sign upon entering the league. The length, pay, and conditions of these contracts are all predetermined and based on where a player was selected in the NBA Draft.
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